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Wednesday 19 September 2018

‘Cold Breath’ by Quentin Bates

Published by Constable,
11 October 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-47212-776-1(PB)

Reykjavik police officer Gunna has been given an unusual assignment: she’s to bodyguard Osman, a visitor from the Middle East who’s been invited to Iceland by their Law and Order Minister, Steinunn Strand. He’s to be held in a safe house ... but pretty soon not only the Press but also Osman’s enemies are heading his way.

This fast-moving police / political thriller follows four strands, all told in the third person. There’s Gunna herself, along with her boss, Ivar Laxdal, who are struggling to make sense of Osman – is he the charitable organiser he presents himself as, or does his organisation mask something more sinister? Skuli Snaedal is one of the journalists and editors of Pulse, a hard-hitting investigative news site, who has information on Osman that will do the Minister’s reputation no good. The mysterious Ana and her thug sidekicks are out to take Osman alive, if they can.

Finally, right at the start, we meet Hanne and Carsten, a retired couple from Denmark who are forced to bring something to Iceland in their camper van. Dare they tell the police? You need to keep your wits about you, because the narrative moves swiftly from one strand to another, with each ‘chunk’ only two to three pages long. The sympathetic characters draw you in: Gunna’s growing interest in Osman, and her concern about the family she’s had to leave behind; Skuli’s continued struggle with the ‘black dog’ and his delight in his new family life; the elderly Hane and Carsten’s dilemma.

The background is Reykjavik as winter moves slowly into spring, and Bates evokes this beautifully, with vivid descriptions of sea and land. The ending includes several good twists. This is the seventh Officer Gunhildur mystery, and while it’s good to meet the series characters again, and see how their lives are developing, it also reads well as a stand-alone. There are no spoilers for previous books.

A slick, atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland Noir’s masters.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Quentin Bates  is an English novelist of mystery/crime fiction novels. Quentin found himself working in Iceland for a year, which turned into a decade, and has used some of that experience as well as a university writing course to develop his Gunnhildur series. Although he is British, Quentin is more in line with Scandinavian crime fiction authors. Quentin is also a full-time journalist and feature writer for an obscure nautical trade magazine.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Death in Shetland Waters

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